Boyle Heights Gang Member Who Firebombed African American Residences Sentenced to 13 Years in Federal Prison
LOS ANGELES – A member of the Big Hazard street gang was sentenced today to 156 months in federal prison for orchestrating and executing the nighttime firebombing of African-American families at the Ramona Gardens Housing Development in Boyle Heights in 2014 in order to force the residents out of their homes.
Jose Saucedo, 25, a.k.a. “Lil’ Moe,” of the Boyle Heights neighborhood of the City of Los Angeles, was sentenced by United States District Judge Christina A. Snyder, who described the incident as “a terribly violent crime” because the attack targeted particularly vulnerable victims and because the defendant had a leadership role.
Saucedo pleaded guilty in May 2018 to four felonies: conspiracy to violate civil rights, violent crime in aid of racketeering, interference with the Fair Housing Act, and attempted arson of federal property.
“Racially motivated crimes are among the most disturbing offenses inflicted on a community,” said United States Attorney Nick Hanna. “Today’s sentence shows that criminals who are fueled by racial hatred – such as this defendant, who participated in a firebombing attack on innocent families while they slept – will face severe consequences.”
“The defendant violently attacked families sleeping peacefully in their homes, because of their race,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will vigorously prosecute these acts of hate.”
“Violating the civil rights of others by engaging in racial violence is antithetical to our values as Americans,” said Paul Delacourt, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office. “The lengthy sentence handed down today for Jose Saucedo should send a strong message that targeting innocent people because of their skin color will not be tolerated and that offenders will spend a significant time behind bars.”
On the evening of May 11, 2014, which was Mother’s Day, Saucedo and seven other members of the Big Hazard street gang agreed to firebomb several apartments in the Ramona Gardens complex because the residents were African Americans who lived there. Each defendant was given a specific role in the attacks and was provided with items to be used, including masks to conceal their identities and a hammer to break windows.
Once the gang members located their targets, they smashed the windows of four apartments to allow for cleaner entry of the firebombs to maximize damage and threw lit Molotov cocktails into the residences. Three of the four targeted apartments were occupied by African-American families, including women and children, who were sleeping at the time of the unprovoked attack. One of the victims was a Hispanic resident of Ramona Gardens whom the group mistakenly targeted.
Saucedo played a primary role in the attacks, collecting glass bottles to be used as Molotov cocktails, supervising one of the two groups of co-conspirators, and throwing a firebomb into one of the targeted units. After the firebombing, Saucedo continued to intimidate Ramona Gardens residents because of their race, threatening one mixed-race family by referencing the firebombing as an example of what would happen to them if they did not move out of the housing complex.
All seven of the defendants who were charged in this case in 2016 have pleaded guilty to federal hate crime and related offenses. All of those defendants also admitted that they participated in the firebombings because of the victims’ race and color and with the intent to force the victims to move away from the federally funded housing complex. Saucedo, who was given four years credit for time served on a related offense, is the first defendant in this case to be sentenced. The other defendants will be sentenced at later dates.
The investigation into the firebombing was conducted by agents and detectives with the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Los Angeles Police Department; the Los Angeles Fire Department; and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Mack E. Jenkins, Chief of the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section; Justice Department Trial Attorney Julia Gegenheimer of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section; and Assistant United States Attorney MiRi Song of the General Crimes Section.